Global Roundup: Women against Femicide in Argentina, Ghanaian Journalist Comes out, Chinese Court Compensates Woman for Housework, LGBT+ Community in Myanmar, and Indigenous Peoples in Mexico

Compiled by Samiha Hossain

A demonstrator holds a sign reading, 'Stop killing us, we demand justice', during a protest against violence towards women, in Buenos Aires, Argentina [Flor Guzzetti/Reuters] via Al Jazeera

The murder of 18-year-old Ursula Bahillo led women in Argentina to rally on the streets earlier this month in numbers not seen since Argentina’s Congress legalized abortion back in December. Bahillo’s ex-boyfriend, Martinez, has been charged with femicide, with the aggravating factors of premeditation and cruelty. According to activists, Bahillo’s case shows the many ways in which the state is failing to protect women.

Prior to her murder, Bahillo had filed several police complaints against Martinez, obtained a restraining order that was not enforced, and was turned away the last time she went to file a complaint – the authorities said they did not work on weekends. Since Bahillo’s tragic death, more cases of femicide have been reported across Argentina. 

We want to be able to walk the streets without having to look over our shoulders…The cases are everywhere. We all have a neighbour, or someone we know, who has gone through it, who is living it now, but the judicial system doesn’t do anything about it – Fabiana Costa

The movement #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) started in 2015 after the body of 14-year-old Chiara Paez was found buried in the yard of her boyfriend’s family. This movement to end gender-based violence has spread across several Latin American countries. Based on organizations tracking cases through the media, nearly 300 femicides were reported in Argentina in 2020. In addition, in the first 52 days of the 2021, there have been 43 femicides and transfemicides, according to Mumala, a feminist organisation that tallies the cases.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez met with Bahillo’s parents and announced a plan to create a federal council for the prevention of femicides, transvesticides and transfemicides. However, women’s rights advocates remain skeptical. Soledad Deza, a well-known lawyer from the province of Tucuman, does not think there is a need for more organizations, as Argentina already has a Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversity. Instead, she thinks the focus should be on prevention. 

We need public policies, and we need effective implementation of those public policies, so that what we have works. Since [men] are part of the problem, they need to be part of the solution – Soledad Deza

Marta Montero’s 16-year-old daughter, Lucia Perez, was murdered and raped in 2016. Three men were acquitted of her sexual abuse and femicide, and two were convicted only of administering drugs. A new trial has since been ordered. Montero is a member of a group of families of femicide victims that want the government to better support families seeking justice for their loved ones.

“I don’t need the state to spend money pointlessly on people who talk. As families of victims of femicides, we want actions. We want things to get done, we want things that are concrete.” – Marta Montero

How many more women must suffer before the femicide crisis in Argentina is met with the urgency it requires? The patriarchy thrives on asserting itself as the expert on all matters – especially those concerning women. However, women in Argentina are adamant that the state should not get away with the ineffective solutions they have proposed for the very violence they continue to uphold. It is important that the government listens to activists if they truly want to eradicate gender-based violence.

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YouTube/Joy News via them.us

Earlier this week, a Ghanian journalist, Ignatius Annor, came out on national television, which prompted the LGBT+ Rights Ghana center to be raided and shut down by law enforcement on Wednesday, in what is likely retaliation from the government over Annor’s segment.

This is going to be the very first time that I’m using your medium to say that not only am I an activist for the rights of African sexual minorities, what you would call the LGBTQI community, but I am gay. It is the truth that I have accepted, it is the truth that I will live by – Ignatius Annor

Annor is a journalist with Euronews English in France now and had reported for years in both Ghana and the Congo. He came out during a panel for JoyNews, which focused on attitudes about LGBTQ+ people in the West African nation. While he was working in Accra, he remained in the closet, as he was concerned about losing his career among other consequences, given that the country currently outlaws homosexuality. During the panel, they discussed LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which operates a community center in Accra, offering affirming resources like counseling, workshops, and paralegal services. Conservatives and religious leaders claim that the center is counter to family values.

The center did not expect such homophobic uproar since it first opened in January. Prior to the center’s shutdown, more than 100 Ghanaian feminists signed an open letter of solidarity with LGBT+ Rights Ghana, claiming the backlash “follows a trend of moral panic led by the media, religious groups, and political figures.”:

Whenever queer Ghanaians demand rights, respect, and safety in our own country, these leaders use the guise of morality and concern to push a violent agenda. [...] We believe that the patriarchal and colonial constructions of gender and sexuality that shape social expectations and norms not only hurt the LGBT+ community, but continue to keep other marginalized groups–including poor women, sex workers, people with dreadlocs, amongst others – oppressed and constantly policed.

 Annor is grateful for all the support he has received around the world since coming out. He remains optimistic about what’s to come. Despite the pushback from conservatives and religious leaders, the LGBT+ community, feminists and other advocates in Ghana are loud and clear that they are here to stay. 

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A Chinese court has ordered a former husband to pay his wife a one-off 50,000 yuan for housework she had done over a five-year period while they were still married. Photo: Getty Images via South China Morning Post

In a landmark ruling, a Chinese court has ordered a husband to pay his wife for the years of housework she did during their marriage. According to court records, Wang met her husband Chen in 2010. They married in 2015 and started living apart in 2018 – their son living with Wang. In 2020, Chen filed for divorce. Wang requested a division of property, and financial compensation, as Chen had not taken part in housework or childcare responsibilities.

The court ordered Wang custody of the son and ruled Chen compensate her with a one-off 50,000 yuan (US$7,700) payment for housework she had done over a five-year period. This ruling sparked plenty of debate online with many expressing that 50,000 yuan is not enough.

Zhong Wen, a divorce lawyer based in China’s Sichuan province, said that the ruling was based on China’s new marriage law, which came into effect earlier this year, and stipulates that parties who take on more work raising children, taking care of the elderly and assisting their spouses’ work are entitled to ask for compensation during divorce. Wen also believes the compensation in this case was too low.

The case has generated discussion online about the value of domestic work and the role of homemakers. Given that a survey by UN women indicates that women still carry out at least 2.5 times more unpaid household and care work than men, it is important to have these conversations. Feminized forms of labour such as domestic work and childcare continue to be devalued and uncompensated around the world. The ways the pandemic has pushed people to work from home while at the same time disproportionately pushing women out of the labour force will ensure that these are issues that feminists around the world insist we tackle. It will be interesting to see how else the new marriage law in China manifests moving forward and whether it truly represents a step towards gender equality. 

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Members of the LGBTQ community protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

In a previous weekly Global Roundup, I wrote about protests happening in Myanmar following the military coup earlier this month. The LGBT+ community has been joining the anti-coup protests with rainbow flags. Du Wun is a transgender man who fears that the country’s LGBT+ community will be silenced under the new military junta and progress towards equal rights will be erased. The LGBT+ community has been emerging in Myanmar during a decade of democratic reform. 

After being bullied as a teenager and disowned by his parents, Du Wun only started to accept his gender identity when he connected with other LGBT+ people. He says his life improved once he started attending events organised by Myanmar's budding LGBT+ community, which helped him find the confidence to come out. Now, he shares his experiences as a trans man in different workshops.

I saw other LGBTQ people, so I started to accept my identity – Du Wun

In Yangon, hundreds gathered and demonstrated under the banner "LGBTQ 4 Democracy" last week, and similar protests attended by trans women took place in the country's second-largest city, Mandalay.

In other towns, many of which had little or no public LGBT+ presence previously, rainbow flags are increasingly visible.

Under military dictatorship, we will face discrimination…Since (the military) doesn't follow human rights, there is no way that it will protect the rights of LGBT+ people - Ko E.T., a gay man

It is heartbreaking that many LGBT+ people in Myanmar cannot express who they are because of social stigma, and British colonial-era legislation that criminalises same sex relations with up to 10 years in jail. It is imperative that anti-coup movements are inclusive to the queer community, as marginalized groups are often the first to be stripped of their rights during conflicts.

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Juana Facundo is a translator of Otomi indigenous language. Photo: UN Women/ Coordination of Extension and Social Action UDG

Juana Facundo is one of five translators working with UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls programme in Mexico and the University of Guadalajara. The programme aims to break down language barriers in the dissemination of COVID-19 health information and to prevent violence against indigenous women and girls in Jalisco state’s capital city of Guadalajara.

Being indigenous, we already suffer from discrimination, and with the pandemic, women were forced to stay at home and endure domestic abuse – Juana Facundo

Many countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region have been among the worst hit by COVID-19. Indigenous, rural and Afro-descendant women in the region were already facing limited access to quality healthcare or social protection and high levels of discrimination in the labour market and the global pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. Indigenous peoples were particularly affected by lack of access to information. For instance, In Jalisco, about 40% of Indigenous peoples do not speak Spanish.

The UN Women Safe Cities programme has reached over 57,000 people in Jalisco with their community-based loudspeaker interventions in neighbourhoods most affected by the pandemic.

It was necessary to rework the message in Spanish for each of the indigenous languages so that it was not aggressive. Telling women who were unable to go out to work or suffer from violence at home to simply ‘stay home’, could have been offensive – Gabriela Juárez Piña, Head of the Intercultural Health Programme of the Indigenous Community Support Unit at the University of Guadalajara

It is crucial to recognize the specific barriers Indigenous peoples face, particularly during a time where marginalized groups’ struggles are only being amplified. Organizations must listen to what Indigenous peoples are saying about their lived experiences and be committed to fighting for long-lasting change beyond the pandemic.

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Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.

Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.

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